Engineering Cellular Compartmentalization in Bacteria

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community



Allie Obermeyer

Professor of Chemical Engineering
Columbia University 


Engineering Cellular Compartmentalization in Bacteria

Protein de-mixing has been implicated in the organization of cellular components. These phase separated membraneless organelles create distinct environments that are essential to cellular processes ranging from signaling to gene expression and stress response. The formation of several membraneless organelles appears to be driven by electrostatic interactions between proteins and nucleic acids. Here I will share our efforts to develop sequence-function-property relationships in order to predict the formation and biophysical properties of engineered membraneless organelles in bacteria. To do so, we engineer model proteins with varying potential for electrostatic interactions with endogenous biomolecules. We have probed the role of protein charge, charge distribution, charged functional groups, and sequence in the formation of these compartments. Here we will share our most recent understanding of the role of sequence in the creation of phase separated organelles in living cells. 


Allie Obermeyer is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Columbia University. The Obermeyer Group harnesses the biological and polymeric properties of proteins to create new materials. These studies blend approaches from chemical and synthetic biology, protein engineering, and polymer physics. Allie obtained her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Rice University and performed undergraduate research in the laboratory of Seiichi P.T. Matsuda. She then joined the Department of Chemistry at UC Berkeley and earned a PhD degree under the guidance of Matthew Francis as a part of the Chemical Biology Graduate Program. She subsequently conducted postdoctoral training in the Chemical Engineering department at MIT as an Arnold Beckman postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Bradley Olsen. In 2017, she started her independent career at Columbia University. She has been the recipient of an NSF CAREER and NIH MIRA award as well as a Teaching Award from the Columbia Engineering Alumni Association. She is involved in translating basic research to real-world solutions. She is a co-founder of Werewool, a venture-backed materials company that develops fibers with tailored aesthetic and performance properties to create sustainable textiles.